Singh, Zardari may meet next week in Tehran

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to meet Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the Non Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran on August 30 and 31.

While Singh will reach Tehran on August 28, it will depend on Zardari's arrival for their meeting. Singh's early arrival will give him an entire day when he can have "structured bilateral meetings" with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on August 29, as well as with Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Both New Delhi and Islamabad are keen to schedule a meeting between Singh and Zardari, sources said, and diplomatic channels are working on the specifics.

At the last NAM summit in Egypt in July 2009, Singh and Zardari had come out with the Sharm-al-Sheikh declaration, mentioning Balochistan for the first time, and had caused quite a stir in India.

This time although a joint statement is not expected, sources are not ruling it out.

Singh and Zardari last met in April in Delhi, when the Pakistan President, along with his son Bilawal and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, had come to India on a pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif. They had lunch at the PM's residence, which was attended by top ministers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Singh and Zardari had a private meeting without aides before the lunch.

More recently, Zardari had sent a formal invitation to Singh to visit Pakistan in November for Guru Nanak Jayanti. The invite, which was sent in the last week of July, also requested Singh to visit his ancestral village in Gah. Guru Nanak Jayanti falls on November 28 this year by which time the second round of the composite dialogue process between the two countries would have been wrapped up. Next week, when Singh and Zardari meet in Tehran, there will be expectations in Islamabad for a response to that invitation.

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